Determination of ammonium ion by fluorometry or spectrophotometry after on-line derivatization with o-phthalaldehyde

Anal Chem. 1988 Jan 15;60(2):175-9. doi: 10.1021/ac00153a016.


A fast, sensitive, simple, and highly reproducible method for routine assay of ammonium ion (NH4+) was developed by using HPLC equipment. The method is based on the reaction of NH4+ with o-phthalaldehyde (OPA) in the presence of 2-mercaptoethanol. After an on-line derivatization, the resulting NH4(+)-OPA product was quantified by using fluorometric or spectrophotometric detection. For fluorometric detection, the excitation and emission wavelengths were 410 and 470 nm, respectively. The spectrophotometric detection was made by measuring absorbance at 410 nm. Results on the effects of OPA-reagent composition and pH, reaction temperature, sample matrix, and linearity of the assay are presented. Even though it took about 2 min from the time of sample injection to the appearance of sample peak, sample injections could be overlapped at an interval of about 1 min. Thus, the actual time needed for analysis was about 1 min per assay. The method can be used in a fully automated mode by using an autosampler injector.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / instrumentation
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Fluorescence
  • Fluorometry / instrumentation
  • Fluorometry / methods*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mercaptoethanol
  • Phosphates
  • Potassium Compounds
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / analysis*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / chemistry
  • Spectrophotometry / instrumentation
  • Spectrophotometry / methods*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • o-Phthalaldehyde / chemistry*


  • Phosphates
  • Potassium Compounds
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Mercaptoethanol
  • o-Phthalaldehyde
  • potassium phosphate